Can't Gerrymander Statewide Races

While the Republican's once a decade gerrymander hangs in the balance, it is well to remember that one class of races cannot be grotesquely reshaped. Statewide contests, which fully encompass the often jagged borders of Ohio, are immune to the stuff.  It would be wise for Democrats to concentrate on them.

A few months ago, I was sure that the Ohio Supreme Court would step in, slap the redistricting commission's and Ohio legislature's hands and force the creation of intelligently shaped districts that would have a slight Republican advantage after tossing out the horribly GOP-skewed ones. Three appeals to the high court already have been filed but any decisions will come in December at the earliest.

No less prominent journalists than's Andrew Tobias and Ohio University's Thomas Suddes are hinting that Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor will join the three Democrats on the court in voting 4-3 to throw out the gerrymanders and form fair districts. O'Connor went against the grain last decade, but was outvoted by her Republican colleagues.

O'Connor will side with the Democrats this time around only if she wants to be unemployed (angry GOP-linked law firms won't hire her) after her forced, by age, retirement next year and only if she wants to be shunned forever by the Republican officeholders and power brokers who like Ohio just where it is: in their clutches.

The three statewide Republican office holders on the redistricting panel – Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber – all voted for the GOP-cooked remap of Ohio Senate and House districts because they feared they would be primaries and dismissed by their own kind for saying "no."

While conventional wisdom says that Democrats should build its party from the bottom up, sensible redistricting has become nearly a lost cause for both state legislative and congressional districts. Maybe some Dem gains, but don't bet on it. Dems gain control, not a chance in hell.

Therefore, the focus must shift to the gerrymander-proof statewides: U.S. Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer and Supreme Court.

Let's look at the nine Republican races.

Lots Of Chinks In Republicans' Armor

Governor. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who run as a team. DeWine is increasingly trapped between (rhyme alert) doing the right thing and the demands of the Republican right-wing. He cannot win the primary without the righties, who are being courted by one of their own, former Congressman Jim Renacci. DeWine knows Ohio and the GOP like the back of his hand. He has his own considerable wealth to buttress fund-raising. Yet Donald Trump does not like him. If MAGA throws his weight behind Renacci, DeWine could become road kill. My guess is that DeWine would withdraw and back the ever loyal Husted as his replacement if he sensed impending defeat. DeWine is in his 70s and might decide that one more election battle is one too many and bad for his health. If DeWine steps aside or is pushed aside, the Democratic candidate gets a big boost (if Dems only had a credible one). Otherwise, DeWine is a heavy favorite to win re-election.

Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor and Treasurer. The four middle-aged white guy look-alikes and sound-alikes are LaRose, Dave Yost, Faber and Robert Sprague, respectively. All are first-termers and are expected to run again and win handily again. That would set off fireworks for 2026 when all four would be term-limited and have to scramble for a new political sinecure. LaRose is the shrewdest and most photogenic of the lot. He is most likely to run for governor in 2026 if he can figure out to push the lackluster Husted aside.


Chief Justice and 2 Associate Justices. Associate Justice Sharon Kennedy is running in the middle of her 6-year term to replace O'Connor while Associate Justices Patrick Fischer and Patrick DeWine are standing for re-election. The latter, whose daddy is governor, was going to run for chief justice, but decided against it. He also recently decided not to recuse himself from ruling on the redistricting board's actions, even though daddy is on the board. The younger DeWine might be vulnerable if daddy's fortunes slip. The wild card in the 2022 elections is that the justice candidates will now run with the party label under their names. The Ohio Legislature approved the change earlier this year and Gov. DeWine signed it. Republicans thought that the Democrats had captured three seats in recent years because the party label was missing. That probably helped the three Democrats, but it is true the O'Connor and Kennedy's electoral fortunes were aided by having good Irish Democrat names. Kennedy, now labeled a Republican, faces Democrat-labeled Associate Justice Jennifer Brunner for chief justice in 2022. Kennedy is a slight favorite but Brunner is well-known as a former secretary of state. It could be close. So could younger DeWine's. Fischer is the best bet among the Republicans.

October's Campaign 2022 Democratic Scorecard

Way back in November, 2020, I started this monthly feature in hopes of generating interest in the process so that the Democrats would put forth formidable candidates in 2022. I cannot claim success as only two strong Democrat candidates for statewide office have emerged: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for U.S. Senator and Brunner for Chief Justice.

Ryan, despite being slowed by a case of the COVID that was mitigated by his vaccinations, has put the pedal to the metal, criss-crossing the state with a populist message. He does have a significant challenger for the nomination in Columbus attorney activist Morgan Harper. I hope he is not afraid to prove himself in a series of debates. The GOP field of a half dozen aspirants are cutting each other up daily, increasing Ryan's prospects. I put this race at 50-50.

Brunner's political ambitions (word play alert) are legendary but not always laudatory. She passed on running for re-election as secretary of state in 2010 in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate nomination. She likely would have won re-election in 2010, surviving the GOP tide that swept out Gov. Ted Strickland and Attorney General Richard Cordray. Some are shy about Brunner running for Chief Justice because, if she wins, a Republican governor will replace her with a Republican associate justice. I give Kennedy a slight lead, 51-49.

No Democrats have come forward to run for the two associate justice seats yet.

In fact, the story of Democratic candidates for statewide office is that the big names like Michael Coleman and Lee Fisher are sitting it out.

Undaunted in my quest to help field a formidable team, I am switching things up in the other statewide races for October.               

Aftab Pureval has become the prohibitive favorite in the race for mayor of Cincinnati. A big win on Nov. 2 would make the half-Asian Indian, half-Tibetana major statewide figure. His performance as Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, his charisma plus the mayoral triumph would vault him into the governor's race. I now see him as the Democrats' best candidate. I would twin him with fellow thirty-something Columbus Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown for lieutenant governor and call it the Democrats' Dream Team Ticket to the Future.

About to be re-elected unopposed as Columbus city attorney, Zach Klein is my pick for attorney general. At age 42, the dynamic Klein would give sleepy Dave Yost a run for his money. State Rep. Allison Russo gets my nod for state auditor. She is a big underdog in the special election for the 15th Congressional District (part of southern Franklin County and several rural counties to the south) Nov. 2, but has shown that she is statewide material with a powerful television presence. I am leaving Nan Whaley off the list because her campaign for governor is flagging amid a hint of scandal. I am turning to former State Rep. Kathleen Clyde for secretary of state. An encyclopedia of election knowledge, Clyde lost a close one to LaRose in 2018 and is ready to wipe the smug smile off his face in 2022. Current Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, a struggling candidate for the gubernatorial nomination, is my choice for treasurer.

That's four men, four women and one minority. Four from Columbus. Two from Cincinnati. Two from northeast Ohio. Lots of young talent.


– The growing crime and violence problems in Columbus and around Ohio State University remind of another era when Ohio parents were reluctant to send their daughters to OSU because of safety fears.

– The Dispatch is looking a new editor. Why not put the top editor at either sister newspaper, Cincinnati Enquirer or Akron Beacon Journal, in charge. Their leadership in their communities runs rings around the Dispatch's lack thereof.

– Gannett needed to save some money so it told the Dispatch and its other newspapers to just not publish on Labor Day. Will us subscribers get refunds? That's a lot of dough.

– The Dispatch finally editorialized against the gerrymander on Sunday Sept. 26, but reduced its effectiveness by running a big drawing of the scales of justice and putting the first few paragraphs below the drawing in a light blue hue of body type with a dark blue background. In other words, illegible. Art triumphs over content in the Dispatch's confused world.

– Pretending to be fair and "give both sides," the Dispatch published an article by State Sen. Matt Huffman, a member of the redistricting committee. The headline read: "Ignore false narrative; districts not rigged for GOP." And black is white, eh, Mr. Editor.

– The Dispatch rediscovered the Columbus Clippers last week and did an actual sports story about the hometown favorites, who annually draw the more fans to their stands than the football Buckeyes, Blue Jackets and Crew. Boycott over? Grown-ups running the sports section? We can only hope.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,  

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